US Senator Mary Landrieu, co-chair of the Congressional Adoption Coalition and a nationally recognized advocate for adoption, spoke about the Dima Yakovlev Law with IMR Advisor Olga Khvostunova. The following are the senator’s words.

 

 

Members of the US Congress and the American public are very upset and frustrated with Russia passing the Dima Yakovlev Law, which bans the US from adopting Russian children. We see it as a very cruel action that Russia took against its own children. It was such a disproportionate reaction of the Russian government: instead of taking their outrage [with the Magnitsky Act] out on the United States, they punish their own children.

As you know, Americans adopt children around the world. Americans adopt about 15,000 to 16,000 American children every year and thousands of children internationally. And we’ll continue to do so, regardless of Russia’s adoption ban. But the problem is that there are hundreds of thousands of orphans in Russia, many of them in orphanages. Some of them are terribly or very poorly supported. These children are in desperate need of a good family.

All America was trying to do is to help Russia to develop its own adoption system, and to adopt those few of its children that we can adopt. And Americans adopt both healthy children and children with special needs that are not really taken care of in Russia.

We are working on 273 cases that involve families who have already traveled to Russia and have already met the children that they were adopting. This new law is traumatizing these orphans again.

Today, we have about 500 adoption cases pending because the Dima Yakovlev Law came into effect. We helped to process 71 cases, even with the new law, as they had already received court decisions. But we are still working on 273 cases that involve families who have already traveled to Russia at least once or twice and have already met the children that they were adopting. Some of these children are old enough to understand what is going on. So this new law is traumatizing these orphans again. And there are 56 cases of families who have been shown a picture of a child or referred to a child but haven’t yet traveled to Russia. And these couples bonded with that picture or that information and made plans to adopt those children. Today, members of the US Congress are interested in having a dialogue with Russia to proceed with these pending cases within a year.

Let me also respond to some frequent criticisms that the Russian government uses against the US.

First, the Russian government is telling Russian people that Americans are harming Russian children. It is false. My own godchild is from Russia. She is 11 years old, and she’s been with our family since the age of 18 months. And she is loved and treasured and supported and is being given every opportunity.

Secondly, we know that there have been a few high-profile cases in which children have been accidentally injured or killed, or in some cases, they have been victims of abuse. But these cases are not typical, and they are not frequent occurrences. Being aware of these cases, we are doing more investigation, trying to get even better information on why these accidents happened. We do believe that the Russian government is entitled to information about what happens with adopted children here, and we can do and will do a better job. But that is no excuse for the Russian government to condemn tens of thousands of children to a life without a family. And while we say it is tragic that these abuses happen in adoptive families, the real tragedy here is millions of orphans and street children in Russia.

These cases are no excuse for the Russian government to condemn tens of thousands of children to a life without a family.

And thirdly, there is a myth that American families adopt children from abroad to get financial benefits. It is absolutely not true! The American system of international adoption involves private, not-for-profit, very reputable organizations. These organizations are regulated and licensed. And sometimes the costs of the international adoption can be up to $30,000. The American government can only help by providing tax credit—up to $10,000—to offset the initial cost of adoption. But the estimated lifetime cost of raising a child in America is about $200,000 for a 20-year time period. Compared to that, the tax credit is miniscule.

We believe that the Dima Yakovlev Law is really damaging the relationship between Russia and the United States. It’s a terrible situation, but I hope it can be properly resolved.

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